The Galaxy, And The Ground Within
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ibsn13: 9781473647688
series: The Wayfarers - Book 4

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is a science fiction novel about a diverse cast of characters from all over the galaxy, stuck at an inter-planetary truck stop for an indeterminate span of time, getting to know one another and helping each other overcome (or make peace with) problems in their personal lives.

As the characters learned about each other and gradually opened up about themselves, I started to see parts of myself reflected in them making me feel invested in the mostly low stakes interactions occurring between the characters.

I’ve seen complaints about the book not having a plot that propulses the characters forward. Although that’s mostly true, I don’t think this book needs one.

This is a story about people, it focuses on them and their evolving relationships with one another, finding common ground despite their differences. That’s more than enough to keep someone enraptured for however long it takes them to read the book (I know I was).

But if you’re looking for a story about a ragtag group of underdogs overcoming stacked odds to save the universe, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

If you’re looking for something a little bit out there, and are ok with reading something with less action, less sex (although there is some of that) and fewer universe ending apocalypses than you’re used to, then I can highly recommend this book.

Here be spoilers, you’ve been warned:

The book has an optimistic tone but it isn’t wishy-washy when it comes to the grittier topics it tackles. For example, one of the characters, Speaker, is a member of a species that is very clearly a stand-in for Jewish people (systemically oppressed/enslaved, forced to be nomads with no land to call their own, etc).

NB: I would love to hear an expert talk about this portrayal. I can’t point fingers necessarily but I definitely raise an eyebrow at the author’s choice to portray the Jewish stand-in race as tiny gremlins with hooks for hands.

This book doesn’t shy away from portraying the systemic discrimination that Speaker and her species is subjected to. By the end of the book, systemic discrimination isn’t “solved” but the characters come to terms with their differences, their prejudice and tackle them head on.

This lines up with real world social psychology theories on how to go about successfully breaking down barriers and achieving understanding and compassion between different groups of people. My knowledge of the social psychology behind this combined with this portrayal helped make this story feel believable to me.

One minor complaint I have is that every character has a tragic backstory (or is going through puberty) that is revealed over the course of the book. It feels a little melodramatic but I eventually got over it. Because of this and the fact that most “scenes” involve characters standing around and talking to each other, the novel feels more like a dramatic play than a book. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just something I noticed.

I think we’re going to see a lot of authors copy Becky Chambers’s writing style in the coming years. What she’s doing in this book seems like a recipe for success and I expect her to cash in on this format, rightfully so. And I’m excited to read the other books she’s written in this series, the rest of her work.